Skip to main content

Full text of "Verdict On India"

See other formats

138                                   VERDICT OX INDIA
The cup of tea—or rather, a small tin of it—stands before me
as I -write. It has just come back from the analyst's. It is
quite harmless, and, of course, utterly useless for any of the
diseases for which it is recommended. Its basis is a herb that
resembles the South American mate; it also contains thyme,
cardamoms, cloves, and the dried petals of a few common flowers.
It might perhaps have slightly digestive properties, but that
is all.
Xow, if this stuff had been purchased from a chemist of doubtful
reputation, with the object of exposing its proprietors to prose-
cution for selling drugs under false pretences, there would not be
very much in the story. But I did not come by it in that manner ;
it was presented to me, with due ceremony, by one of the leading
lights of the Ayurvedic fraternity, a man of the greatest respecta-
bility, who—mark this well—thoroughly believed in its magic
j properties. And that is a story—a very good story, or perhaps
we should say, a very bad one.
The story becomes even better—or worse—when we take iuto
consideration the following facts :
Firstly, this cup of tea is typical of the whole Ayurvedic mumbo-
jumbo> with its blend of astrology, witchcraft, and religion, and
its liighfalutin, claims to have rediscovered ancient secrets which
are far in, advance of Western medicine.
Secondly, the cup of tea is being brewed in ever-increasing
quantities. The Ayurvedic system is spreading like wildfire
throughout modern India ; new hospitals are being erected as fast
as they can put them up; students are being enrolled by their
thousands ; in many parts of India the number of Ayurvedic doctors
is between twenty and thirty per cent greater than the number of
allopathic, or 'Western* doctors.
Thirdly, the main impetus for the growth of this gigantic
quackery is, quite simply, nationalist fervour. It is the medical
expression of Swadeshi. Ayurveda, whatever else it may be, is
not British ; it is purely Ii^dian, and therefore mast be supported.
The mystical bent of the Indian mind—even in science—is so
marked that we should not be justified in accusing its advocates
of sharp practice, though some must surely be aware that its
•claims are unjustified ; and if they or their families are suffering-